A new season means new food on Martha’s Vineyard. Across the Island, eateries are shuffling chefs, inventing new menus and changing locations for the summer. Other restaurants are starting from scratch.
Restaurateurs are offering an exciting array of new fare from eggs Benedict to lobster as they gear up to serve summer crowds.
Josh Aronie, former chef at Menemsha CafÃ©, has moved to Vineyard Haven to run The SaltwaterCafÃ©, an annex of the Saltwater Restaurant. Mr. Aronie serves sit-down and take-out breakfasts and lunches. And it’s not only the panoramic waterfront view that has Mr. Aronie excited about his new location.
“I’m serving on plates now. Like, actual china,” he said. Sturdy plates mean more on the menu, like eggs Benedict and fish cakes, to list a few. The Saltwater dining room is open to cafÃ© customers during the daylight hours before the restaurant opens for dinner.
Benjamin deForest, former chef at Zephrus in Vineyard Haven, moved to Kennebec avenue in Oak Bluffs last month to open the Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘N’ Beck. Mr. deForest was head chef at the Red Cat between 1995 and 1999 when it was located on State Road in West Tisbury. The new restaurant is “re-creating an era, as much as re-creation is possible,” he said. “The restaurant we’re in now has a quirky and fun feeling. It feels perfect. It’s a good fit for me right now.”
Bryan MacPhail, owner of MacPhail’s Corner CafÃ© on Dock street in Edgartown, is expanding his business this summer. Mr. MacPhail opened a new ice cream shop, called Scoop Shack, a few doors down from thecafÃ©. The ice cream shop will be similar to the one Mr. MacPhail just closed on Block Island.
Mr. MacPhail also plans to open a pizza shop called Slice of Edgartown behind Scoop Shack. “I thought, what goes well with ice cream? Pizza,” he said. “My goal is to do well and not gain 50 pounds.” The sign for the shop is already hanging in the vacated spot next to Portobello Road, formerly occupied by Vineyard Photo. “It’s a tough spot in the back, but I hope it works out,” Mr. MacPhail said.
There has also been a shifting of chefs and owners in higher-scale dining. Christian Thornton of Atria has been in Oak Bluffs since May 24 at his new seafood restaurant, Hooked. The restaurant is structurally identical to Lola’s, which formally occupied the space, but the interior has been revamped. Mr. Thornton envisioned a “comfortable and casual old Vineyard home.” In the front, a spacious, bright dining room includes booths and tables with white wooden chairs. In the waiting area, crisp, white paper lanterns hang overhead.
True to its name, Hooked serves seafood. Mr. Thornton wants his new restaurant to respond to an important seaside question, “Where’s a great place for lobster?” The menu also includes fresh cuts of broiled fish, steak and seafood served at the raw bar.
In the back, there’s a full-service bar that will operate as a nightclub every night in season, complete with deejay booth and large speakers mounted on the walls. “We wanted [Hooked] to be a place where the community could come to eat, and visitors could come to party,” he said.
The new party in Vineyard Haven is a sit-down soirÃ©e. Monsieur Jean Dupon has opened La Cave du Grenier, a French bistro-style restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. It sits beneath Dupon’s Le Grenier in the space that used to be the M.V. Bagel Authority.
“Everything is new from below the floor to above the ceiling,” said Mr. Dupon. The simple bagel store dÃ©cor has been replaced by wall-length mirrors and rattan cane bistro chairs. Carla Bruni sounds from the speakers. James McDonough is the main man in the kitchen, with 16 years of culinary experience under his belt.
Mon Amour, a new French-American restaurant located on State Road in Vineyard Haven, opened this past April. Chef David Spooner, former caterer with SoignÃ©, is running the restaurant alongside his wife, Sarah Spooner. The restaurant, which is located in the former home of Nicky’s Italian CafÃ©, will be open year-round. On June 25, it began serving lunch Monday through Friday.
CafÃ© Moxie, a year-round restaurant featuring American and European cuisine, is slated to open in mid-July. Chef William Wannamaker, who was Walter Cronkite’s personal chef for many years, will run the kitchen. The restaurant burned down in the Fourth of July Main street fire four years ago, and has been empty since. “We have tried to open as fast as we can, with the finances we have available,” said Mariola Ryan, owner Michael Ryan’s wife.
The Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company is opening a small take-out location in Vineyard Haven, offering chowder, sandwiches and wraps. “We just wanted to have a presence in town,” said Chowder Company owner J.B. Blau. “It seemed like a nice, small spot that will give us some visibility.” Mr. Blau is also planning to open an event space upstairs at the Oak Bluffs Chowder Company this July.
David Henry is the managing partner of a new restaurant taking shape in Edgartown called 11 North. The high-end seafood establishment, occupying the former home of David Ryan’s on North Water street, is planning to open in July. The two-level restaurant will include a bistro downstairs, and a fine dining room upstairs. “It’s going to be new, fresh and sexy, as my partner describes it,” Mr. Henry said.
Mr. Henry was managing chef at Fishbones CafÃ© in Oak Bluffs before he and his partner, Jonathan Koerner, purchased the building last February. The menu will feature local produce, meats and fish. The restaurant will be open year-round.
There are also restaurateurs doing something entirely new. Islanders have been enjoying burritos from La Choza in Vineyard Haven since Leap Day of this year. Seth Gambino, owner of La Choza, and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 1992 graduate, returned to the Island to open a burrito shack after spending time in several U.S. cities. “It was just time to come back,” he said. His corner store in Vineyard Haven tells the tale of his travels, with license plates, posters and even car parts hanging on the walls.
Mr. Gambino is a trained chef, but won’t refer to himself as such — he just likes to cook and wants to make a “mean burrito” for hungry shoppers. “I’m trying to make a living, not a killing,” he said.
For weeks curious passersby have been peering into the windows of Port Hunter, a new raw bar and seafood restaurant in downtown Edgartown. Brothers Patrick and Ted Courtney opened the doors this week, in the space previously occupied by In the Woods, a store that sold imported goods and wooden crafts.
“I always thought it would be a great location for a restaurant,” said Patrick Courtney.
Much of the materials used in decoration of the restaurant are salvaged, including navigational channel markers used as bar lights. Ship lights hanging over the oyster bar came off an old ship in Florida. The name Port Hunter refers to a ship that wrecked in Vineyard Sound in 1918. The ship’s contents, including army gear meant for soldiers fighting in World War I, were salvaged by Islanders and brought to shore. ”It’s a nod to the resourcefulness of Vineyard people, but it’s also a great fishing spot,” said Patrick Courtney.
In Oak Bluffs, it’s all about fast food. Bite on the Go, which took the three-walled building on Circuit avenue, is owned and run by the Destefani family. It’s a five-minute stop for people grabbing food, unless they order the ribs. Those take 15 minutes. Valerio Destefani owns the restaurant, and his kids work in the kitchen and at the register. Sonia, his wife, oversees the recipes, which put a Brazilian twist on American food.
Bite on the Go opened just before summer began, and the reception has been positive. “Everybody from kids to mid-age to my old buddies.” Mr. Destefani said, “Everybody is coming and everybody is enjoying.”
Next to the Steamship Authority a sign hangs outside a new restaurant advertising the Best Burgers Ever. Ed Charter and his son Seth combined efforts to open Pirate Jack’s Burger Shack, a place to go for a high-quality quick burger and a flare of flavors. The menu features hand-cut Belgian pommes frites and fresh burgers. Some have a twist, like the New Orleans style burger topped with smoked bacon and peanut butter. They hope to add breakfast to the menu, incorporating Creole-influenced po’boy sandwiches. Delivery service will be available to nearby Oak Bluffs customers soon.
“We felt there was a void,” said Seth Charter. “The Vineyard didn’t really have a burger joint.”
“We take it very seriously,” added his father. “We did a lot of research.” That research included a taste-test for burgers and dipping sauces, and the effort of Bill Engler, a consultant hired for marketing research. The group came up with a proprietary blend of hamburger meat, 20 dipping sauces for fries and the larger-than-life skeleton, Pirate Jack, who greets guests upon entering.
“We wanted to bring a little bit of New Orleans pirate spirit [to the Island],” Seth Charter said.